ARCHIVE: LEVELS 31 – KEEPING VERY STILL AND QUIET (MONO)

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A summer’s morning down on the Levels, and after a lot of early morning photography I was relaxing with hot coffee and a sandwich in a spot on Tadham Moor that I know as the Magic Carpark.  I’ve given it this somewhat strange name because, many years ago now, being in this little, quiet place helped me through terrible times in my life, and I’ve been coming here ever since.  And, after I’ve downed the very last of my very special Belgian beers, this is where my ashes will be scattered.  A wonderful and eminently simple little place.

On this particular morning, in the field next to the rough track that leads off south from the Carpark, there was a herd of cows, largely motionless, along with their calves.  And the more I looked at these cows, and at the morning’s light washing over them, the more I was drawn to them.  And so, putting down the coffee and picking up the Z 6, I walked slowly and quietly down the rough track towards them.

Arriving next to the cows, I kept very still and quiet and just looked at them.  Most were unconcerned by my presence, but this one, who had been lying down beside her calf, stood up to look at me, and advanced a few paces – and I was very glad of the water-filled ditch – the rhyne – that lay between us.  But, keeping silent and motionless paid off and, slowly raising the camera, I carefully started making images of this very placid scene.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to further enlarge it – recommended.

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens used in DX (= APS-C) format to give 330mm; 800 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Neutral v2 profile; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Cool Tones 1 preset; the Magic Carpark, Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 12 July 2019.

SOMERSET LEVELS: SOME KEYWORDS

And finally – some keywords that will often be mentioned in this archive series:

Droves:  to avoid crossing other peoples’ land when accessing their own, the farmers constructed a series of tracks, known as droves, between the fields. Some of these droves are now metalled roads and many persist as open tracks – all of which allow wonderfully open access to this countryside.

Rhynes: the fields are bounded by water-filled ditches – which both drain the ground and act as stock barriers. Hence strange landscapes – where fields appear quite unbounded, except for a gate with a short length of fencing on either side of it, where a bridge crosses the water-filled boundary ditch to provide access the field.  These small wet ditches communicate with larger rhynes (“reen” as in Doreen), which in turn flow into larger drains, e.g. the North and South Drains in the Brue Valley. All of these waterways are manmade and, by intricate series of pumping stations and flood gates, all of them have their water levels controlled by local farmers, internal drainage boards or the Environment Agency.

Pollarded Willows: the banks of the rhynes were often planted with Willow trees, both to help strengthen the banks and also to show the courses of roads and tracks during floods. These Willows are often pollarded, i.e. their upper branches are cut off, which results in distinctively broad and dense heads to the trees. Pollarding keeps trees to a required height, while ensuring a steady supply of wood – more important in the past than now – for fires, thatching spars, fencing and so on.

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ARCHIVE 448 – STINGING NETTLE IN GRASS (MONO + COLOUR)

 

 


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Stinging Nettle in grass at the Magic Car Park, Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 28 Aug 2013.

Why is this car park magic?  Well, it and the surrounding countryside – open pastures, simple, wet and rough – have helped me through some very dark nights of the soul.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

Technique: D700 with Sigma 12-24 at 24mm; 400 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, including selective restoration of colour.

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SOMERSET LEVELS 380 – ANIMAL 7 (MONO)

 

 


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A summer’s morning down on the Levels, and after a lot of early morning photography I was relaxing with hot coffee and a sandwich in a spot on Tadham Moor that I know as the Magic Carpark.  I’ve given it this somewhat strange name because, many years ago now, being in this little, quiet place helped me through terrible times in my life, and I’ve been coming here ever since.  And, after I’ve downed the very last of my very special Belgian beers, this is where my ashes will be scattered.  A wonderful and eminently simple little place.

On this particular morning, in the field next to the rough track that leads off south from the Carpark, there was a herd of cows, largely motionless, along with their calves.  And the more I looked at these cows, and at the morning’s light washing over them, the more I was drawn to them.  And so, putting down the coffee and picking up the Z 6, I walked slowly and quietly down the rough track towards them.

Arriving next to the cows, I kept very still and quiet and just looked at them.  Most were unconcerned by my presence, but this one, who had been lying down beside her calf, stood up to look at me, and advanced a few paces – and I was very glad of the water-filled ditch – the rhyne – that lay between us.  But, keeping silent and motionless paid off and, slowly raising the camera, I carefully started making images of this very placid scene.

I started this Levels’ Animal series with portraits of farm cats: see this link for the first image in this series, and much context; there are other images of these cats from this series here 2 3 4 5 .  Then came a picture of a deer 6 .

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to further enlarge it – recommended.

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens used in DX (= APS-C) format to give 330mm; 800 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Neutral v2 profile; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Cool Tones 1 preset; the Magic Carpark, Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 12 July 2019.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 308 – THE VIEW SOUTH, TADHAM MOOR

 

 

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This image is best viewed enlarged: click onto it to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it further – recommended.

So, where are we?  Well, early on a misty day, I’m standing on a rough track that goes off southwards across Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels.  The place that I’m standing in looks nondescript, but it is very special to me, it helped me through truly dreadful times long ago, and I call it the Magic Carpark.  There are four things to see.

First, there is on the left a bank of dark green, spikey grasses, grasses which love to grow in damp, marshy places.

Then, the rhyne (rhymes with seen), the water-filled ditch, which makes off straight as an arrow southwards, and which acts as the fence for the field on its left.  I’ve talked about rhynes in earlier posts in this little series.  There is another such waterway, out of sight, immediately right of the large tree on the right: this little, dark track goes off southwards between these two, thin, flanking bodies of water.

Thirdly, the large tree on the right, a Willow, is very special to me.  Following the fairly recent (natural) toppling and deaths of three others behind the camera, it still stands proud but, perched right on the edge of one of these water-filled rhynes, it too could topple in at any time and, arriving here, I’m always relieved to see it still standing tall.  Furthermore, on these visits, I never fail to go over to touch and talk to it, though never knowing if I’m heard, or felt, or mad.

And, on a purely practical note, since Somerset County Council have not been idiotic enough to install a nice, completely incongruous, modern toilet block here in this simple, rural setting, standing on the far side of this Willow is a very good place to, as our American cousins so succinctly put it, take a leak.  Behind this big tree, after all, being out of sight of passers by along the nearby lane … although not out of sight of the farmer and his wife as they drive slowly down to check their stock in the early mornings.  But then, you can’t have everything.  And they do always smile and wave.

And the fourth thing about this totally simple and nondescript little place is that – along this track – is where an old and valued friend is going to sprinkle my ashes when I finally, as the phrase so happily puts it, snuff it.  And what will happen after that?  Well, the feet of the cattle, the sheep and the farmers’ dogs, the wheels of the farmers’ Land Rovers, the boots of walkers and the torrents of rain, will press and flush what’s left of me further and further into this ground, a fate which, when I think about it, is just fine with me.  And, since this ground is just about at or even a little below sea level and sea levels are rising, there will come a time when these Levels return to the marshes and inundated areas that they once (not so long ago) were, and that’s fine with me too.  Even though I can’t swim.

There are other images from this early morning shoot here: 1 2 3 4 5 6 .

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 83mm (equiv); 200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Astia/Soft film simulation; Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 19 Oct 2018.

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SOMERSET LEVELS 272 – HARD ROAD (MONO)

 

 

hard-road-mono

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A new surface of chippings on the muddy track south of the Magic Carpark, Tadham Moor; 24 June 2016.

In the summer, but doubtless thinking of the winter ahead, the farmer has re-surfaced this rough track with a carpet of tough, angular chippings.  These rough rocks felt sharp and uncomfortable underfoot, and the whole impression was of a hard road on a dark day, leading on into the future.

And as anticipated (and finding refuge perhaps in less stark, technical matters), I found a use for the X-T1’s tilting back screen – it saves having to lie down flat when bringing a wide angle lens down to ground level.  And I partner this screen and lens combination with something bought long ago in a garden centre.  A garden centre?! … I know … the memory still smarts … I’ll be playing bingo next … 

But anyway, this garden centre item is a very light and portable rubber pad for gardeners to kneel down on, and its just the thing for my ageing knees – especially on surfaces like this!

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

X-T1 with 10-24 Fujinon at 15mm (equiv); 800 ISO; Lightroom; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Wet Rocks preset.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 173 – ME IN THE MAGIC CARPARK

 

 

Selfie in the Magic Carpark
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Me in the Magic Carpark, on Tadham Moor; 27 Aug 2014.

Standing in the mouth of the Magic Carpark.  The ground under The FATman feels the strain, and the talking scales for weighing cattle say “One at a time, please.”.  

And why “Magic”?  Because, nearly 20 years ago, I suffered terrible losses, and this simple, unprepossessing little place played a very definite part in keeping me hanging on in there.  When visiting these flatlands I’m always here and, under the big Levels skies, I always feel its peace and calm.  Now, when my world is voluntarily contracting into west and southwest England, maybe this carpark, and that narrow road heading on up northwards, are my favourite places of all to be.

And that single track road stretching off northwards across Tealham Moor is Jack’s Drove, and there are Willows flanking it on the left, and Alders on the right.  The high ground in the distance is up around Wedmore – these highlands were islands when, not so long ago, the lowlands were covered by open water and marsh.

The tarmac cutting left-right across the frame is the single track Totney Drove.  The farmer has (unusually) tried to prevent access to the Magic Carpark, but some charitably minded soul has pulled down the multi coloured length of rope used for the purpose, which you can see, blue and orange, on the ground behind me.

The camera is balanced on its neckstrap, up on the roof of my car; and I’m in my “And what the bloody hell do you want?” stance.  Oh yes, and being here, we’re below sea level – and I can’t swim.

D800 with 12-24 Sigma at 24mm; 200 ISO; Color Efex Pro 4.
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